Immigrant Rights Clinic helping Afghan evacuees navigate U.S. immigration system
As thousands of Afghan nationals are arriving in the U.S., the clinic is engaging in pro bono efforts to provide needed legal counsel.
UPDATE (Oct. 11, 2021): Sofi Kim JD/LLM ‘22 just completed the work required to file nine humanitarian parole applications for a family of Afghans seeking to enter the United States and be reunited with their families. Her work is part of the clinic’s recent efforts to assist Afghan evacuees.
“Helping prepare humanitarian parole applications has made me appreciate the tremendous impact that legal assistance can have for Afghans in navigating the fear, dangers, and uncertainties they must endure until they can reach a place of safety in the U.S.,” Kim said.
Immigrant Rights Clinic students Andrea Guzman ’22 and Kate Weaver ’23 traveled with clinic supervising attorney Shane Ellison on Sept. 13 to Fort Pickett near Blackstone, Virginia, to support the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in providing Know Your Rights presentations and counseling to Afghan evacuees.
More than 5,000 Afghans are currently living at the Army National Guard base, and that figure is expected to double. Most are receiving a form of status called humanitarian parole, which is not a permanent option for remaining in the U.S., and have questions about their eligibility for long-term immigration relief. Additionally, many want to know what they can do for family members who did not make it out of Afghanistan in the wake of the U.S military’s withdrawal from the country and the takeover of the government by the Taliban.
“Working directly with Afghan refugees revealed the extent of the challenges they continue to face as they settle in the United States,” Guzman said. “It is clear that there is a huge need for resources and I am grateful to be part of the clinic so that I can learn about these issues and also have the opportunity to serve this community.”
Added Weaver: “It was so meaningful to be able to help on the ground floor with the Afghan parolee response after watching how things have unfolded in Afghanistan. I believe our work played a valuable role to educate Afghans on what their options are for longer-term lawful residence in the United States”
The clinic is working to develop additional materials to help Afghans at Fort Pickett navigate the U.S. immigration system and educate evacuees on their rights as conditions evolve.
“I left with a to-do list of action items to help make the process of applying for status easier, and I’m looking forward to keeping up to date with the legal services being provided at Fort Pickett and continuing to help as I can,” Weaver said.
In addition to its work at Fort Pickett, the clinic is also counseling Afghans in the U.S. on their ability to help family members enter the country. Clinic student Sofi Kim ’22 is preparing nine humanitarian parole applications for individuals who have escaped Afghanistan and are seeking to be reunited with family in the U.S. “Helping prepare humanitarian parole applications has made me appreciate the tremendous impact that legal assistance can have,” Kim said.
Explained Ellison: “Whether it’s making it into the U.S. or finding durable solutions to remain, Afghans evacuees must have access to qualified immigration counsel. Claims for asylum, family-based immigration options, and special legal programs for Afghans that have worked with the U.S. government can be very complex.
“I am so proud that Duke Law students are stepping up to help these new arrivals find their way in their new home.”
Added Kate Evans, the clinic’s director: “Responding to this humanitarian crisis requires flexibility, ingenuity, and dedication. Our clinic students have demonstrated these traits in spades. I am grateful for their time and talent in helping Afghan families navigate complicated and harrowing paths to safety.”